I’ve finalised my flight, booked my bed in a hostel, and practiced my per favore and grazie and needless to say I am getting rather excited about this residency. With a couple of weeks left before I start my journey, it’s all about preparing to make the most of this. It’s as much about packing the right things, passport, e111, toothbrush, as it is about understanding what interests me about Tuscany.

As much as I can imagine being caught in a dizzy whirlwind of hyperkulturemia, inspiring an intense experience of prolific art making, I know it could also lead to a lot of confusion (and rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, falling to the floor, and even hallucinations according to Italian psychiatrist Magherini). While passing out of the floor of the Uffizi is not a major concern of mine, getting a bit lost and overwhelmed is. I need a guidebook, but I’m not usually one for following a Lonely Planet Guide, I want a book that’s a little more inspiring, artistically.

In my final year at GSA I became increasingly interested in the idea of ‘witches’ as a scapegoat for fears about female sexuality. I also wanted to explore the traditional rituals that the church condemned, the heady folklore tales of sex, drugs, metamorphosis and death. However when it comes to researching witchcraft and ritual in Florence, one journalist has beaten me to it, by 100 years or so: Charles Godfrey Leland. His influential book Aradia documents Tuscan folklore, rituals and the legends of Florence that he collected from the locals during his stay in the 1890s. Leland’s writing could offer me doorway to this substratum of Tuscan life, and be my own strange little guidebook. Unfortunately my local bookshop didn’t have a copy, but thanks to Amazon one is on it’s way to me now.

Thinking about local traditions and folklore got me inspired yesterday, and I did a little ritual myself. In a performance preliminarily titled PARISH WITCH, I gathered, wore and then returned wheat, mud, bone and grasses to the earth. The piece was certainly more about the ritual of selecting and gathering the local flora to wear and the application of the natural detritus to my body- fingers as paintbrushes, thick globs of clayey mud as glue, than it was about creating any lasting image. Still this is the first time I’ve created, digitised, and published something the next day. The immediacy of the process is new to me; the idea of showing something without time to reflect is mildly unsettling. But I’ll have to put my worries about cringing over naïve work aside, because, and I hope you agree, this blog will be a lot more interesting as a raw unedited adventure in art making.

And how does my skin and hair feel after being coated with all that plants and mud? actually pretty good! I might make this ritual a regular thing…


Nesting before taking Flight

But unlike the birds, I’m taking my nest with me. And instead of the beak, I’m using a camera to pluck twigs, vines and other bits of undergrowth from my parish countryside to build up a collection of images that evoke home, a memory box of sorts to take with me when I move. I’m using an antiquated Vivitar XV-1 with a 50mm 1:2 prime lens. I found it hiding in an old biscuit box at a car boot sale last summer and satisfyingly struck a bargain at £5. Last year however, I was focused on building my own cameras, loading homemade pinholes with both 120mm and 35mm film, and the new…old Vivitar didn’t get taken out the biscuit box.

This week I have found that £5 was a little too good to be true. I’ve discovered the prime lens’s focus is unalterable, with the focal point sitting permanently about 2metres from the camera, and the body has a tendency to let in light; but in all honestly I kinda love it all the more. I love the magick that that unpredictability offers, and when I loaded the camera with some expired film, I was offered a range of colour shifts and light leaks as the image ebbed in and out of focus.

Yet despite these few quirks, this camera has offered me a more concrete way of image capture than any of my home made cameras, and without having to carry around a tripod and dark room bag, this, albeit slightly damaged, Vivitar might offer me the most practical way of creating images on film while on my residency.

But for now I will continue to fluff out my nest of photographic images, and perhaps weave in performance for good measure, pack my bags and prepare to say addio Inghilterra.